Dressing the Castle for Christmas is no ordinary project: every year we plan and prepare and every year it is always something of a test. The main ingredient required therefore is always a good sense of humour and a lot of laughter.
Lauren, in the office here, is in charge of organising the assorted Christmas trees: the huge one for the Saloon, 20 smaller ones for the drive and about 10 quite large ones by various doors and courtyards. John, our unique and detailed Castle Manager becomes most exercised about “size”. Lauren spends a lot of time asking, and confirming, the main Saloon tree will be no more than 22ft high. Of course, and with predictable inevitability, the tree that arrives is 26ft and nearly the length of the trailer… So, David Hilton, our joiner, goes to work and removes 4ft from it and then prepares the end of the tree so that it fits into the special three footed base he made for it to go into each year. This base is a work of art, made entirely from used floorboards from a cottage we were renovating in the Park and is beautifully constructed including clamps to ensure the tree is held straight.
Before the appointed day we are going to put the tree up, the farm stores it in a barn for 3 or 4 days to make sure that there is no moisture on it which would damage the walls in the Castle. Then a magic combination of ropes, man power, team work, coffees and sausage rolls all help get the tree up over the morning.
Using greenery to help celebrate Christmas goes back a long way. The Romans celebrated the winter festival of Saturnalia using evergreen plants to make wreaths. Mind you – given it is winter – evergreens would have been the only choice. The Anglo Saxons’ carried on…..again living in the countryside here, the plants which are interesting at this time of year are the pines, the hollies and mistletoe. Christmas tree decoration really began to develop during the 18th and 19th century especially in Germany and became the celebration we would recognise today.
I hope that visitors and guests will enjoy our efforts next week at Highclere – we have some lovely events and above all we are seeking to raise money for different charities. The most special day is our Songs for Peace. Most of us have a home in which to celebrate, food, hospitals and schools. Those around Aleppo do not and the idea of Sunday December 11th is to raise money for them. We have posted lists of what we are singing here and whether you choose Oxfam or the Red Cross or Save the Children, it is a time and an idea to help others.
I can’t wait for my visit next week!!!
My Husband and I were fortunate to visit Highclere Castle again this past August, 2016. When we were there in 2013, we didn’t have time to tour the Gardens, so we made a special trip and also as part of the HHA Tours were again able to see your beautiful home.
After we went through the amazing gardens, we headed up the mowed hill at the back of the Castle and were greeted by a beautiful pheasant running across the back lawn. In our trip before my husband hadn’t been out to the ‘folly’, Jackdaw’s Castle and so this time he also got to walk out there and enjoy the view of the Castle from there.
Of course, it was all made wonderful complete by having tea on the lawn. What a treat, again. Thank you for opening up your home and we are so thankful that the English government makes these tours of these lovely homes….so that they are able to remain in the families, preserve the history and make it enjoyable to all of us who are unable to live in such beauty. But for a moment….we can dream. Blessings and Merry Christmas…
Now we’ve been ourselves these pictures remember us of the beautiful our day was at Highclere Castle. After seeing Downton Abbey we could see in real the house looks like.
Always seeing the beautiful pictures made by the owners or others. The Canarvon family gives us the oppertunity to look inside. The XMas tree must be enormous to see in real but the pictures of the works from begin to end with that tree show us that’s a lot of work. But the results are phenomenal. If living more close to the castle we would come and visit if possible. All best XMas wishes from two Dutch fans.
So beautiful. I would love to be a decorator at the Castle! It gives me so much satisfaction to transform a room (or a tree) into a beautiful celebration of the season. I better get moving on the decorating for my own ‘castle’! 🙂
I love the custom stand for the tree! Functional craftsmanship at its finest.
Happy Holidays to everyone at Highclere. I hope among the hustle and bustle of the season you have a chance to step back, take in the result of all the hard work, and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
Thank you – you are right the stand is a work of art!!! Happy Christmas to you.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Merry Christmas to you and your family, friends and keepers of the Castle. My grandparents and many relatives came here from England, so I much appreciate that you are willing to keep us up on the daily activities. Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and New Year.
Kathy Stewart, Rochester, New York.
Happy Christmas to you!
Beautiful! My dream is to be able to come see this in person some day. Thank you for sharing the process and photos!
Looks absolutely beautiful… . Merry Christmas to you all… and a very happy 2017 … .xxxxx
We are getting there with decorations – Sally (who runs our gift shop) and her Christmas elves so a great job with ever more finishing touches
Good afternoon Lady Carnarvon & everyone including pets & wildlife!!!
Thank you so so much for your wonderful blogs throughout the year. This one is especially exciting with Christmas upon us & a delight not only for you but especially for my Mum who is 94 on 10th December & adores me reading about your daily pursuits.
Looking forward to more writings in the New Year.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
Theresia & Rona & not forgetting our Siamese , Oscar
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for the reminder of the amount of behind the scenes work (and workers) it takes to decorate the Castle. I began the work of decorating my “castle” this week and it is just “my Lord” and myself doing all the work But in the quiet of the morning I have been admiring our home with the beautiful tree, greens on the stairway and the loved family crèche… it truly is my castle, and I am so thankful.
It is giving yourself the time and planning and preparing… those two key words!
What a beautiful sight to behold, your lovely tree and your beautiful castle. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Thank you for sharing you home with us.
I will put up more photos too..
Thank you so very much for sharing your life at Highclere with us! Your traditions are interesting and your exquisite home is beyond compare. We were fortunate enough to visit back in May of 2013 and those are treasured memories!
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
You will have to come back again! Happy Christmas
Lady Carnarvon : Thank-you for sharing Highclere Castle at Christmas. It’s nice to see elegance, simplicity and class brought back to decorating . It is such a lost art.
Greetings Lady Carnarvon.
“It takes a village” came to mind when I was reading your post today. I think that putting up the tree… decorating for the season .. is much more fun than it is to dismantle everything!! May all who visit your home feel a sense of wonder and amazement and joy. May the spirit of generosity to those who are desperately in need, fill our hearts. Marilyn Peck
Thank you Marilyn Happy Christmas!
Dear Lady Carnavon,
A beautiful Christmas decoration and a great job to do. I only worry that the tree has been cut and that it can not be recovered for successive years.
Merry Christmas to you and your family from Spain.
DEAR LADY CARNAVON
THIS CHRISTMAS TREE IS VERY BEAUTIFUL .MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.
RIO CLARO SP BRAZIL
Thank you very much in Brazil! Happy Christmas
Lady Carnavon I wish to you and your family Merry Xmas fron Argentina
Thank you for such a lovely glimpse into castle life this time of year. Happy Christmas to all.
I cannot never quite decide on which stories…
The tree is beautiful. We put up 5 trees in our modest home(alas, all artificial) varying in size from 9 ft. down to 3 ft. I cannot imagine having to decorate 25-30 trees as you do. It must be an awesome sight to behold. Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.
I will take some photos for here and Facebook – it is lovely as the light draws in…
Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your beautiful Castle and home with us each month.
I so look forward to your newsletters. Your tree is stunning this year.
This is Sally’s new colour scheme – it is pretty. Happy Christmas!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, family & staff,
Thank you for the glimpse of your lovely Christmas trees, and information on the various charities you support. I would love to read, in a forthcoming blog, of the special holiday menu & foods you prepare, and maybe even some traditional English recipes used. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year, from the snowy Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
I am most curious about the staying power of a tree that big that is not in water. Here in Canada we have dinky little 7′ trees in a stand that we keep refilling. If your house isn’t a steam bath, a freshly cut tree can last a good three weeks before it starts dropping needles. How long does that big one last before it starts to shower you with them? Also (because this is the bane of using live trees) what kind of mess does it make when you take it out? Would just love to see a picture of that so that we can all say “See, even Lady Carnarvon has piles of them on her carpet/flooring”.
The secret of staying power is to know when the tree was cut down. This was cut down, left to dry in a barn for 3 days and then we put it up. The sap is still there and sufficient to last. Some trees are cut in October and shipped into supermarkets etc so therein lies the problem quite often. At the end we have sheets under where it is going to come down and be carried out the door to catch the worse.
I am also pretty good with a hoover!! I hope I lead from the front…
I enjoy reading all your posts but the holiday ones are ones I REALLY look forward to every year. My inner Christmas Child wants to do all the decorations that Highclere has but sadly only on a much smaller scale. This makes me so happy.
Happy Christmas to you all!
Happy Christmas – very good to stay with childish loves and thoughts!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for sharing pictures, stories and reflexions. Always charming and interesting!
My question is the same as the one from Betty Sleep; how does the Tree manage without water? Maybe the size helps…
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you all!
See what you think of the above answer Happy Christmas!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
So interesting to see and read all about putting up the Christmas Tree at Highclere. What an amazing feat! I can just see the Crawley family and their servants gathered around singing Christmas Carols!
I’m always impressed how everything is such a work of art there. The stand your man made is just beautiful and like a finished piece of furniture in itself. But of course it would have to be in such a gorgeous setting.
Thank you so much for sharing your home with us. And we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
We are singing carols all this week..
So lovely. Enjoy each and every post throughout the year. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all.
Christmas Greetings to you all from New Zealand. Would love to spend and English winter in the future. I just can’t imagine all the work that goes into decorating your wonderful trees at Highclere. They look so beautiful. Christmas is such a special time enjoy it with your family and all the best to everyone for the New Year.
Happy Christmas! Thank for reading the blogs
Dear Lady Carnarvon. Hope my prior comment about watering Christmas trees reached you.
I always look forward to your interesting email posts. Your main tree is very pretty. I hadn’t thought of moisture ruining the castle walls. Have you ever had a bird accidentally fly through the open door or window? I had to quit hanging wreaths on my front doors because birds would roost inside the wreaths and when the door opened they flew inside toward the lights! I must have been a funny sight trying to shoo it back outdoors and my ceilings are way lower than yours. Merry Christmas to all.
We have not had any birds in that I can think of…I do have toy helicopters and the Saloon is a great flying space. My son is much better than I am.
I thank you once again for showing us the beautiful pictures of the castle,especially at the Christmas time.Although we don’t put up a fresh cut tree,as we put up a artificial one instead.But I do buy those scent sticks that you put in the tree.Thank you for showing and sharing the pictures,as well as the story you have written
Do you have a log fire? That gives off a nice Christmassy scent anyway ..
Good Evening Lady Carnarvon. Thank you ever so much for sharing these most glorious images from Highclere. What a beautiful sight to behold. Christmas seems to emphasize the elegance of the castle. Best wishes for a joyous holiday and God bless.
~~Linda Whitworth Cohoes, NY USA
Your saloon is such a lovely room; it seems to have been made for a tree like that–beautiful!
Thank you it is lovely Happy Christmas
Happy holidays to all of you! Do you know “green” is the color of hope? So, with all the Christmas trees you may hope all the wishes to be full filled. Diane
Then I am so glad we chose green decorations. Green is an amazing colour with infinite variety when you look out the window here in Spring
MERRY CHRISTMAS Lady Carnarvon to you and your family. The tree looks as beautiful as ever…great job!!
Thank you – Happy Christmas!
Thank you for sharing another beautiful story complete with gorgeous photographs! May your Christmas be merry and bright, filled with peace, joy, love and contentment, surrounded by loved ones!!
Happy Christmas to you and your family
Dear Lady Carnarvon, once again the season of peace and goodwill has come again. Sadly in many places that is not to be. But reading your message and seeing your beautiful tree, will bring many wonderful memories for Christmas ‘a to come. A very Happy Christmas to you and your family. Desiree.
My husband, Don and I are looking forward to the “Sing Peace” event on Dec. 11. We will be traveling all the way from Pennsylvania USA. 🙂 We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in London and were so pleased to discover this event, which is not only a Highclere Castle/Downton Abbey visit, but one that is so very important. Merry Christmas to you and your husband and may you be blessed for caring for others in this way.
I am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!
Thank you – but I always think I can do something – one step and a tiny feeling of hope.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Happy Christmas to you, your family, your animals, and your staff. Your tree is beautiful. Do you water it? Our tree stand has a large water reservoir, tree trunk drinks from 2 drinking wounds, water every day, stays fresh until January 5th when we take it down. Thank you.
MMMMMMMMMMM – I can smell the pine – it must fill the saloon with gorgeous scent.
It is a great scent.
Dear Lady C. You just gave me my best “laugh” for the day when you mentioned being familiar with a (Hoover!! A very Merry and Happy Christmas to you, your family and your wonderful staff. I look forward to any and all or your
“posts.” Please keep ’em coming!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Happy Christmas to you, your family, your animals, and your staff. Your tree in the saloon is beautiful. Do you water it? My tree is in a stand with a large water reservoir. Tree trunk has 2 drinking wounds, is watered daily, stays fresh until taken down at Epiphany, January 5th. Christmas would not be Christmas without a tree.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I look forward to your blogs makes me feel as if I’m there. Was born in the north east of England been in Australia long time still never feels like Christmas due to the hot weather .So your photos make it feel more like Christmas. I wish you and your family and all your staff a merry Christmas and all the best for 2017.
Thank you – I have just been to a an inspiring carol service at a school- beautiful gothic church and quite cool- but rather like you I like it! You will have to visit here one December…
December 3rd 2016 at 5.36.
Merry Christmas to all at Highclere. I am still enjoying the day to day activities at Highclere. Many thanks Lady Carnarvon.
Happy Christmas to Lord and Lady Carnarvon, their son, animals, and staff. The Saloon and tree is beautiful. Do you water your tree? Our tree stand has a large water reservoir, tree trunk has two drinking wounds cut into it, watered daily, stays fresh until the end. Comes down January 5th. Epiphany.
We do not water it … we rely on the sap and its freshness…
It’s been a year since we had the privilege of visiting Highclere and getting to meet you!!! Highlight for me!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!!!!
I am sorry, but I can’t get my message to go through to you Lady Carnarvon. It always says ” message waiting to be modified”. What does this mean? Thank you.
You are here now – Happy Christmas
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Happy Christmas to all the residents and staff of Highclere Castle. Your tree is absolutely gorgeous. The castle seems an enchanted place to celebrate the holiday season. I hope you and your family revel in the joys of this festive season. Thank you so much for letting us have a glimpse of your preparations for Christmas. You are always so gracious and welcoming in sharing your beautiful home.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Greetings from Brazil!!
It’s an amazing job!!! So beautiful!!! I wish I could be there!!
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous new year. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit by the Summer in next year.
Please bring sunny weather..
Hello Lady Carnarvon from Northern California. I only just watched for the first time, season one of Downton Abbey and have fallen in love with your beautiful castle. I wish I could visit in person but that is not possible so I’m glad I found your blog. I can’t imagine having to string so many lights for so many trees! Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring you and yours many new and exciting opportunities.
Thank you – I hope the New Year brings you happiness too.
Dear Lady C!
So lovely to read and learn more about the great preparations and tree in the saloon…
It was a pleasure to serve all the lovely guests for the charity drinks evening last night.
The special moment was making a connection with the Japanese ladies and with one in particular who’s son lives in the same town in North Kobe as I did about 16 Christmases ago now. Thus using a bit of my Japanese that I just about still remember, it felt a very personal experience and I hope her and the others as well.
I also loved seeing their surprise as one of the ‘maids of Downton” welcomed them in their mother tongue! I do think a good welcome anywhere is so important (from my own travels) and there is such pleasure in making one feel special. The magic is always returned!
Thank you for your generous Christmas spirit and making us feel special in being part of making your events happen…here’s to more good will than ever at this hearty and jovial time at High Clere!
Thank you also for leading from the front…with a hoover (and aeroplanes)!!
Deep curtsy to you,
(A playful lady-in-waiting)
Thank you – the Japanese ladies were beautifully dressed! I was trying to hoover very carefully so Diana (our housekeeper) would be happy!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Happy Christmas to you, your family, animals, and staff. Your Christmas tree is lovely and inspiring. Do you water it. Our tree has a stand with a large water reservoir, trunk drinks through two drinking wounds, tree is still fresh when it comes down January 5th, Epiphany.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Happy Christmas to you, your family, your animals, and your staff. The Saloon tree is beautiful. Do you water it? My tree at home is in a stand with a large water reservoir, tree trunk has two drinking cuts in it, watered every day, stays fresh until it is taken down January 5th, Epiphany…
The castle looked so magical and stunning last night. We very much enjoyed the Christmas Fair. The tree is amazing! Merry Christmas!
I so enjoy the Christmas Fair and we will be holding it again next year.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, My previous comment is above these other wonderful comments, but I wanted to say I have printed the song list for Sunday. We will be traveling, but I will have it with us. Thank you so much for your blogs.
Wonderful – thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Happy Christmas to you and your family.
Kókai Istvánné from Hungary
And to you in Hungary! Happy Christmas.
So beautiful and majestic. Merry Christmas !
What a gorgeous home & perfect tree. I love this article because our tree fell over the day after we decorated it, Tuesday, when the stand failed because bolts were stripped & the weight of the tree toppled it over. I came home from taking our middle son to school to find it resting on the new rug we had just put down in our living room.
I shared this article with my husband, chuckling about the hefty stand that was made for your enormous tree. Thank you for continuing to share your home & life with the rest of us.
Downton Abbey was one of our families favorite shows due in part to your gorgeous home as the setting. We so appreciate all you do to keep it going.
Have a wonderful, Merry Christmas!!!!
Blessings from Williamsburg, Virginia USA
Love & Laughter, Kim
Thank you and I think that here we are going to find it so odd with no Downton to watch on Christmas day…
What a joy to watch the Castle burst into Christmas bloom! I am so thankful that these lovely historical places are loved and cared for instead of being forgotten and left to decay. I look forward to each blog you share with us. A blessed Christmas to you and your family!
Schaefferstown, PA USA
Been reading your book in awe and splendor at
the history you convey. I’ve recently published a piece on the American perspective on the women of Downton that you might finf of interest. If you like, I can send it on. I’m a somewhat respected lively arts writer with an English wife.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The castle and grounds both are a joy to visit this holiday season. We attended the “Champagne and Caroling” fundraising event and were so very pleased with the beauty, attention to detail and graciousness of you, our hostess and Lord Carnarvon, our host.
My daughter Shari and I will forever treasure the evening in our hearts.
We had the pleasure of meeting Donald, your gardener of 43 years and shared his picture and story of his challenges this year. Please pass on to him that there are many friends here praying for him and improved health. He is so very sweet.
Thank you once again for your kindness and support of wonderful causes.
If there is anything we can do for you in future, please let us know.
I love this time of the Year when its announced that the Tree is coming into the Castle & all available staff is required to help 🙂 My arm is first up in the air to help, To me its a special time when we come out of our offices around the castle to make this large tree into a Special Highclere Castle Christmas Tree for all to enjoy..
Happy Christmas to you and your family!
Thank you very much!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I just wanted to say thank you really for such a gorgeous insight into everything you do. Its really brilliant and beautiful. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.
P.S. We hope to come and see Highclere in the summer so if you happen to see a woman with short curly hair in a racing red chair its might be me.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Your dog is precious!! What is his name? I lost my 3 dogs, Reilly, Stormy, and Gracie 3 years ago. I pray for them every day. May they be safe, loved, well fed, comfortable, Happy, healthy, and in the same place. Christmas time with beloved dogs is true magic love. I am asking Santa for another furry kid to love me in God’s name. Merry Christmas.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, question please. How would moisture from the Christmas tree in the Saloon damage the walls of the castle ? That is most interesting. Thank you.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Your tree and the entire Saloon both are such magnificent sights. It must be so gratifying to step back and admire the beauty following the completion of decorating that spectacular space. I wish you, Lord Carnarvon, and your family the happiest of Christmases and I am happy to say my husband and I are planning a trip to England in July of 2017. Highclere Castle is at the top of my list of places to visit – I can barely wait.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Patricia Pepe Meriden,CT. USA
Hi Lady Carnarvan,
Sounds like a good time had by all. The tree looks beautiful!! Makes me think of Christmases at Downton Abbey. I hope you have a lot of success with your charities. I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas.